The best pizza in Italy is from Naples, and the best pizza in the world is from Italy, which means that this pizzeria must offer… I’m almost too superstitious to say it… the best pizza in the world?”
—Liz Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
I went to Italy for a lot of reasons. I went to Italy for the history, the art, and the wine. I went to Italy to hear the musical language, see the canals of Venice, and the ruins of Rome.
But mostly, I went to Italy to eat pizza.
Specifically, I went to Italy to eat the best pizza in the world at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples. I’m only kind of exaggerating, and I have zero regrets.
I don’t presume to be in any way unique or special for saying I love pizza. Everybody loves pizza. I don’t understand the phrase “best thing since sliced bread,” when it should really be “best thing since pizza.” So, when I read about the best pizza in the world in one of my favorite books (yeah, I dig, Eat, Pray, Love, wanna fight about it?), I was deeply, powerfully intrigued. You guys, the way she describes this pizza is absolutely ridiculous:
Holy of holies! Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise. On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance…”
Homegirl was not kidding. I’ll get to that later.
As if that motivation to visit Italy wasn’t enough, I’d also always regretted missing out on it during my study abroad years. This was a rare occasion where I knew exactly where I wanted to travel next: it was Italy. I needed to go to Italy.
Naples was the final stop on my Italy itinerary. It was also the farthest South I managed to travel on that trip, and I’ve heard it said more than once its vibe is far more consistent than that of Southern Italy than Northern. By this point in the trip, my old flatmate from Edinburgh had joined me for a few days of backpacking together before meeting up with her girlfriend in Rome. I felt safer walking around at night in a pair—less nervous when finding ourselves on the quieter streets.
Naples is more or less walkable, though depending on where you’re staying I’d recommend taking a taxi from the Piazza Garibaldi train station. We stayed near Quartieri Spagnoli and I certainly wish we’d just have sprung for a cab rather than trek through the streets on a hot day with our backpacks!
Obviously, Pizzeria da Michele was first on the to-do list. It turns out they’re always freaking busy, so if you want to get a place in line I’d make it the first on your Naples to-do list, too. If you’re just in Naples for a day, it’s quiet convenient because da Michele is less than a 20 minute walk from the train station.
Get to Pizzeria da Michele Early
There will be a line. Everywhere we ate dinner in Italy, it seemed like we were eating so much earlier than everyone else, but not at da Michele. Yes, this could be because more tourists come here due it its literary fame, but there was also no shortage of locals milling around outside!
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele was not spectacularly large or defined, but the crowd outside was. That’s how we found it; the moment we turned onto the right street there was no missing that crowd. We shuffled up to the people waiting outside, awkward and unsure what to do. There wasn’t a clear line, though there was a very frazzled, very large Italian man shouting numbers (or at least, we thought they were numbers… he only shouted them in Italian) at the door. After an embarrassingly long time we got the courage to push our way to the front and found ourselves face-to-face with this pizzeria gatekeeper. Luckily the terrifying interaction was quick, as he just handed us a small numbered piece of paper and shooed us away like the hungry street rats we were. We made our way to an empty spot of curb and plopped down to wait our turn.
Learn Your Italian Numbers!
So, this was fun. Every five to ten minutes or so, as people left and tables opened up, our Italian pizzeria bouncer would shout some stuff in Italian. It was already pretty hard to hear what he was saying, what with the noise from inside the restaurant and Italians chatting outside. Italians are not a quiet people, gotta love ’em. We finally figured out, from our combined knowledge of French and Spanish, sort of what our number would sound like when he yelled it. It seemed like if you weren’t quick to report to the front after he called you, he’d go ahead with the next number, so we listened intently for what we hoped was our turn.
After about forty minutes of smelling fresh pizza and watching people drink beer through the window, we were called! We were a lot less shy about getting to the front of the line this time, both of us pretty hangry.
The waiter led us through the first (surprisingly small, though packed) simple white dining room and into a second slightly larger one. We passed the huge pizza oven on the way to our table, where men were shoveling pizzas in and out of it at a startling pace. We took our seats at a tiny table smushed next to our neighbors and promptly ordered some brewskies.
There was not much of a menu here, which is fine by me. I am a fan of places who do one or two things super well. Presumably, Pizzeria da Michele was the very pinnacle of this concept.
Order One Whole Margarita Pizza Per Person
We each ordered our own cheese (or in Italy, margarita) pizza, another round of beer, and waited. When the pizzas came—I think it was maybe only 15 minutes—I was surprised at how simple they looked. In the U.S. we add all kinds of crap to our pizzas, but in Italy they keep it simple. Crust. Sauce. Cheese. At the same time, each pizza was like a beautiful delicious snowflake. The pattern of the mozzarella was always a little different, and the shape never quite perfectly round. I felt like my pizza was made just for me, my pizza soulmate, and there would never be another.
I feel like I don’t need to even say this, but yes, the pizza was delicious. I am absolutely not just saying this because of the hype, or because I’d read it in a travel novel: this was the best pizza I had ever eaten.
Get Ready to Savor Authentic Italian Pizza
Don’t expect New York or Chicago-style pizza. The crust was extremely thin and soft, making for quite a floppy struggle to eat. The cheese also isn’t layered on as thickly as we do back home, but it doesn’t need to be. The flavor of cheese in Italian, and much of Europe, is simply infinitely better than your standard cheese in the States. Full stop. The buffalo mozzarella at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele Naples was no exception. That flavor quality extended to the tomato sauce, which was also the best and freshest I’d tasted in Italy (and believe me, I ate a lot of pizza in Italy). I truly can’t describe it to you, so you should probably just go to Italy and try it, but the tomato sauce is simultaneously juicy, sweet, smooth, creamy, and zesty. I don’t understand it. It just is.
I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delerium that my pizza might actually love me, in return.”
The meal went by like a blur. I think we both stopped several times just to stare at each other wordlessly, in awe (again, only slightly exaggerating). As much as we wanted another round of pizza, we were pretty full, and the idea of wasting even a bite of this if we couldn’t finish was straight up sacrilegious. I think they were cash only when we were there, either that or the waiter just really preferred cash, but I recommend bringing it either way. We each paid our FOUR EUROS for the BEST PIZZA WE’D EVER EATEN and left.
Did I mention the pizza was FOUR EUROS?
The beer was also 1.50 Euro, for the record. Why don’t I live in Naples, again?
Now, I did not try every pizzeria in Naples (I literally wish). Our hostel recommended a few pizza places they thought were just as good and less crowded than L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. I hope to someday return, presumably bring my boyfriend who has listened to me talk about this pizza fairly regularly for the duration of our 4-year relationship, and try more pizza in Naples. I would also like to try their NEW location in London! For now, though, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele Naples has the best pizza in the world, as far as my taste buds know. In fact, they don’t only have the best pizza in the world—this was the best meal I’ve ever had, period. Sometimes I like to try and replicate dishes I eat abroad, but I will never attempt this pizza. It would be an act of disrespect.
Have you been to Naples, and dined at the pizzeria of the gods, and want to relive that meal over and over again with me? Do you have another Italian pizzeria you think is superior to da Michele? Holla at me in the comments!